Mary Ann O’Rourke is by no means your typical biker.
Seeing her on the street, in a store or restaurant, you’d be hard-pressed to recognize her as a “motorcycle mama” — unless she was dressed out in her biker’s gear.
She retired from the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino this past June — frequent guests at the casino may remember her work providing change and information through the aisles during the last 10 years.
She is a great-grandmother to little Bethany Pardo.
And O’Rourke loves her Harley.
The huge Harley — a 1997 Classic that is bright blue, her favorite color — is the third one she has owned. The other two were a 1967 and a 1970.
She started riding in 1972 in Michigan. A friend gave her a day of lessons — making her learn to ride in a field.
“He said I needed to know what the bumps felt like and how to handle them.”
Because of her work in horseshoeing and driving a tow truck, O’Rourke was not afraid to start out with the big bikes.
She said most women are taught to lift the bikes, when they’re laying flat on the ground, with their backs to the bikes. She knows how to do it that way, but she was taught to bring it up facing it and even with the bike’s pivot point.
Back in Michigan, her most frequent riding companions were members of law enforcement motorcycle clubs.
“They were all from small towns and knew everyone who had bikes. So, they’d invite us to ride with them,” she explained.
Her longest trip on a motorcycle was also back in Michigan — about 1,500 miles over the course of a little more than two days.
O’Rourke’s favorite route in Arizona is north — taking Highway 87 north, and then cutting over to Happy Jack and going past Lake Mary and into Flagstaff, then catching I-40 west to Bellemont.
Her favorite ride was when she and about 40 other bikers, policemen and their wives, were in a parade in Gaylord, Mich. It was a charity event to help children, she said.
There have been some close calls over the years. One of the worst was on a hairpin curve in Michigan. She was forced to almost lay her bike down on the pavement to get by a reckless rider.
“The people behind me said there were sparks coming off my bike,” she said.
More recently she was going up 260 and a couple of young people came over a hill, speeding in the center of the road.
She said she was fortunate there was enough shoulder to move onto in order to avoid a collision.
“I’m always on the alert,” she said.
O’Rourke is having work done on the bike and isn’t sure if it will be completed in time for her to take part in any of the Mountain Thunder rides planned this weekend.
She hopes it will be ready, but if it’s not, she still plans to be down at Green Valley Park for the fun Oct. 8-10. After all, she loves her Harley.